If you’re like the majority of millennial women, you’ve probably spent some length of time on hormonal birth control. While hormonal birth control has been popular for several decades, the conversation is starting to expand to address its potentially negative impacts, too. While the pill has been applauded for preventing pregnancy and regulating periods, it can also cause long-term hormonal imbalances, blood clots, changes in mood, and more. We’re not about to go on a rant demonizing hormonal birth control. Instead, we want to educate on what happen to your body on the pill, what the negative impacts can be, how to detox from the pill, and potential alternatives. We encourage all women to make informed decisions about what works best for them when it comes to navigating their personal decisions around birth control.
What Happens to Your Body on Birth Control?
Birth control pills work by introducing synthetic hormones into your body. These hormones prevent ovulation by suppressing the production of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Without these hormones, your ovaries will not release an egg, and ovulation will not occur. Additionally, birth control pills may also thicken cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to reach an egg. Think of birth control pills as somewhat tricking your body into thinking you’re pregnant when you’re actually not in order to prevent ovulation.
What Happens When You Stop Taking Birth Control?
When you stop taking birth control pills, your body, and particularly your hormones, will need time to adjust. Your hormone levels may fluctuate as your body tries to regulate itself. You may experience irregular periods, acne, weight gain or loss, and mood swings from these shifts. These symptoms may last for several weeks or even months. There are some negative impacts of long-term birth control use to be aware of. These include:
- Long-term hormone imbalance
- Blood clots
- High blood pressure
- Slight increased risk of breast and cervical cancer
- Depression and mood changes
- Decreased libido
Birth Control Use and Hormone Imbalance
Hormonal birth control can lead to hormone imbalances by disrupting the natural balance of hormones in your body. The synthetic hormones in birth control pills can suppress the production of natural hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. This can lead to a range of symptoms such as acne, metabolic shifts, and mood swings. These imbalances can remain even after you discontinue use.
How Do You Detox from Birth Control?
Detoxing from birth control use can help rid your body of synthetic hormones and other toxins. Here are a few steps you can take to detox from birth control use:
- Consider supplements: Certain supplements, such as DIM, magnesium, Burdock and B vitamins, can help support hormone balance and detoxification.
- Eat a healthy diet: Focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Vegetables like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts contain compounds that can help regulate estrogen levels in the body. These compounds can help reduce the activity of the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen, which can help balance hormone levels.
- Practice self-care: Get enough sleep, manage stress, and practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga.
- Remove endocrine disruptors: With your hormones already in a fragile state, it’s important to remove endocrine disruptors from your immediate environment when possible. Swap plastic for glass, look for fragrance-free options on items like trash bags and dryer sheets and avoid products that contain phthalates and parabens.
Alternatives to Hormonal Birth Control:
There are several alternatives to hormonal birth control, including:
- Barrier methods such as condoms.
- Natural family planning methods such as the fertility awareness method. According to multiple studies, fertility awareness-based methods can be up to 99.5% effective when used correctly and consistently. Apps like Natural Cycles and Kindara make it easy to track the data you need to monitor your cycle (PS- Natural Cycles now integrates with Oura Ring to make tracking easy.)
- Copper intrauterine devices (IUDs), however, this option may cause long term uterine inflammation.
While birth control pills are an effective form of contraception, long-term use can lead to hormone imbalances and other negative side effects. If you are considering stopping or detoxing from birth control use, make sure you are taking steps to support your body during this time of transition.